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Guggenheim's Provocative Director Steps Down

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

After nearly 20 years, Thomas Krens, the provocative director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, is stepping down, its board announced on Wednesday.

The move comes three years after Mr. Krens triumphed in a him-or-me showdown with the foundation's biggest benefactor, the Cleveland philanthropist Peter B. Lewis. Mr. Lewis resigned after arguing that Mr. Krens was spending too much money and should focus more on the foundation's New York flagship museum rather than on funneling resources into developing Guggenheim satellites around the world.

In a statement on Wednesday the foundation emphasized that Mr. Krens would remain at the foundation as a senior adviser for international affairs, overseeing the creation of a 452,000-square-foot museum in Abu Dhabi to be designed by Frank Gehry.

In resigning as director Mr. Krens is clearly taking his cue from the Guggenheim's board. "This is something that Tom and the board decided together," Jennifer Stockman, the board's president, said. She characterized Mr. Krens's new position as a "natural transition."

She added, "The museum is in a strong position to move on."

The foundation said that Mr. Krens would remain as director until a successor was hired, and that the search would begin immediately. But it added that the institution would revert to the management structure that existed until 2005, appointing a director who would run the Manhattan flagship and Guggenheim satellites.

In September 2005 the foundation promoted Lisa Dennison, then a deputy director and chief curator, to director of the Manhattan museum. She served less than two years, departing last summer to join Sotheby's auction house as an executive. Curators and other museum directors have been saying privately for months that the Guggenheim has been unable to fill the crucial job of director of the New York museum. They said that candidates who were informally approached were not shy about communicating that they would not work under Mr. Krens, who is known as a difficult personality.

Supporters of Mr. Krens, however, say he has been disappointed with the foundation's board, especially its shortage of particularly generous donors. With no replacement for someone like Mr. Lewis, who gave the Guggenheim about $77 million overall — nearly four times as much as any other board member in its history — the Guggenheim may not have the financial muscle to keep growing, some art-world insiders say.

Mr. Krens cast his job change in a positive light on Wednesday. "This is a great move for everyone," he said in a telephone interview after stepping off a flight from Paris to New York. "In July I will have been at the Guggenheim for 20 years, and I like that round number."

A towering 6 foot 5, with an M.B.A. in management from Yale and a manner that is often taken for arrogance, Mr. Krens, 61, has long been synonymous with the Guggenheim. He is best known for his ambitions for developing an international network extending from Las Vegas to Bilbao, Spain, and for the types of high-profile exhibitions he presented, including shows like "The Art of the Motorcycle," a personal passion, and ones that tackled entire countries like China and Brazil.

He has also organized trend-setting shows of contemporary artists, among them Matthew Barney, Richard Prince and, most recently, Cai Guo-Qiang.

Mr. Krens has drawn criticism for some of his programming choices, including a show devoted to Armani suits underwritten by the fashion house itself.

The new director of the Guggenheim will face the task of balancing growth with acquisitions for the permanent collection and organizing high-profile exhibitions. In addition to overseeing the New York museum, the director will have authority over the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the Guggenheim Bilbao, the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum in Las Vegas.

"The New York museum is the center of the entire constellation," Ms. Stockman said.

Although some critics argue that Mr. Krens has in effect turned the Guggenheim into a McDonald's-like franchise at the expense of expanding its collections and endowment, he has actually created a model for expansion that is being copied by institutions around the world, including the Tate in Britain and the Louvre in France. The titanium-clad Guggenheim Bilbao, designed by Mr. Gehry, is viewed as a major success, attracting more than a million visitors every year since it opened in 1997.

During his tenure Mr. Krens has increased the Guggenheim's endowment to $118 million from $20 million, although he has been known to dip into the endowment to cover operating costs. (The museum's endowment dropped by 20 percent from 1998 to 2005, when it was $45 million, which drew harsh criticism from Mr. Lewis.)

In 1989 Mr. Krens negotiated a gift of Impressionist paintings from the widow of Justin K. Thannhauser, acquired the Panza di Biumo collection of Minimalist art and oversaw the commissions of major artworks by Jeff Koons, James Rosenquist, Rachel Whiteread and Gerhard Richter at Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin. These works later became part of the Guggenheim's collection.

In Bilbao Mr. Krens led an acquisitions program that has included major installations of works by Richard Serra, Mr. Koons, Jenny Holzer and Louise Bourgeois. He also has doubled the size of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and partnered with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna on programming.

Twice Mr. Krens has overseen the restoration and expansion of its landmark Frank Lloyd Wright building on Fifth Avenue. The first, completed in 1992, was an $80 million restoration of the building's interior, along with the construction of a 10-story tower gallery and office building designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates.

The second, a $29 million restoration of the Wright building, is to be completed this summer.

Mr. Krens said Wednesday that the proposed Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emitates, was his most ambitious project to date.

"It's 35 percent larger than Bilbao," he said, adding that the new museum's programming would be more ambitious, too, and that a staff of about a dozen people would be dedicated exclusively to the Abu Dhabi branch.

"It will be truly global," he said, "representing art from the Middle East, Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, as well as Europe and America. It will change the model of the art museum."

by Carol Vogel
For The New York Times

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British Museums Told to Clean House

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

The Museums Association, founded in 1889 to represent Britain's museums and galleries, reversed a 30-year ban on selling art and urged its 1,500 members on Monday to get rid of objects that are gathering dust, the BBC reported.

"Museums typically collect a thousand times as many things as they get rid of," Mark Taylor, the association's director, said in a posting on its Web site ( "Wonderful collections can become a burden unless they are cleared of unused objects." The association told its members to give unused art to other museums or public institutions or, in exceptional circumstances, to sell it. The organization expressed hope that its new policy would encourage museums to put some pieces on display, and said it expected only a few sales each year. Vanessa Trevelyan, convener of the association's ethics committee and head of Norfolk Museum and Archaeology Service, said, "Although disposal of items is not without risk, it is preferable to transfer items to an alternative home where they will be treasured, rather than retain material that is not supporting a museum's research, display or interpretation functions."

By The New York Times

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The Eternal Adolescent: Photographer and film maker Larry Clark discusses his latest project

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 21, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Larry Clark started his career in 1972. His first monograph of documentary photographs Tulsa, published that year, was released to a huge amount of controversy. The book documented Clark and his friends during their adolescence, and showed graphic scenes of drug use and under age sex. At the time this type of social documentary was relatively uncommon and provoked strong discussion and reactions. Tulsa went on to become a photographic cult classic propelling Clark's career.

Since then he has gone on to show in numerous international venues and now has work in several public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Pinakothek Der Moderne.

Clark works as both a photographer and film director, his 1995 feature film debut Kids winning the Independent Spirit Award in 1996, and claiming nominations for both a Golden Palm and Sundance prize.

The Art Newspaper: Your latest exhibition focuses on the teenage development of Jonathon Velasquez, the lead character from your film Wassup Rockers. How did you meet him?

Larry Clark: My film Ken Park was opening in Paris and Rebel magazine had asked me to take some photographs for an issue. Tiffany (Limos, Peaches in Wassup Rockers) and I went from NY to LA to do the pictures. The other kids from the film weren't around so I said 'well let's go find us some skater kids'.

We met a load in Venice Beach at this little skate park. They were from South Central and looked kind of out of place there, but really interesting. We went out the next day to meet them all and Jonathan showed up.

TAN: Jonathon wasn't a model or actor. What was it about him that struck you?

LC: He's just had all this charisma, just completely appealing. The editor of Rebel magazine was just fascinated by this kid, so was Tiffany, we all were. He's just one of those boys; women fall in love with him immediately.

During the screenings of Wassup Rockers, the film that Jonathon inspired, women would just gasp, 50 year old women would fall in love with this 14 year old boy. He's a man child.

TAN: You ended up photographing Jonathon for four years, from 14 to 18. How often did you meet him during that time?

LC: I would go every week, at least once a week and sometimes more. Then as I was writing and getting ready to make the film more and more. I saw him almost every day for quite a while. I've known him since July 2003 and I still see him now. I've actually written a second film for Jonathan that I hope to make soon.

TAN: How did he adapt to being photographed over that period?

LC: It was natural, it wasn't difficult at all. He got so used to it that in the end he became unaware of me. He's not a model and he's not an actor, which I think made him totally unselfconscious.

In fact now he's 18 all of a sudden he is self-conscious. After he saw himself on the screen 40 foot tall, and saw the pictures, now he's much harder to photograph.

TAN: Fourteen to eighteen is a key period in growing up. Were you conscious of the effect you may have had on him?

LC: The only effect I had would be to give these kids attention. I think something like this project really improves a sense of self worth. Jonathon met a lot of people, was taken all over California, Hollywood, out of South Central. His world in South Central was small, a few square blocks; it made the world much bigger.

I'm an old guy and I've been around, so I was always giving my life lessons, telling them about things, it turned into that sort of relationship. I don't want to use the word 'mentor' but it felt like that sometimes.

TAN: Pretty much all of your work, both film and photography, focuses on adolescence. What is it about that particular period in someone's development that interests you?

LC: It's the most interesting period in our lives; it's when we're formed. The things that happen to us at that age dictate what we're going to be like when we grow up. You can be badly scarred during that time and it can affect you for the rest of your life.

My adolescence was pretty messed up, but I documented that in my work. Now it has become fertile territory for me.

TAN: When you made your first book Tulsa you were the same age as the kids as you were photographing. As you've grown older the people you photograph have stayed the same age. Has their reaction to you changed?

LC: It is different now as I'm not one of the kids. For some reason though, I can still do this, everyone is always very honest with me.

I made a film called Impaled that was shown as part of Neville Wakefield's Destricted. During the making of that I was amazed how open everyone was. I guess it's because I'm purely interested in people, that's what it comes down to.

TAN: You move between stills and cinema often. Do you see yourself as a film maker or a photographer?

LC: Both. It's interesting because after I started making films - 10 years ago - it ruined making photographs for me, for a long time. I would look through a view finder and it wouldn't seem enough.

I felt like I should be making films because you see so much more.

When I met Jonathan I felt an opportunity to do something again with photography that I couldn't do with film. It brought me back to making photographs; it brought me back to where I started. He was the perfect subject for that.

TAN: The prints on show in Los Angeles 2003 - 2006 are large scale pigment prints, a move away from your usual documentary style of exhibition. What was it about these particular images that made you want to present them in this style?

LC: I wanted the viewer to really see Jonathan and get to know him.

The prints are really big. A lot of them are life size or bigger and the paper we used was incredibly thick, so we could really saturate the colour. It took us three years to find the process but it gave them an incredibly life-like feel.

TAN: You are represented by large blue chip galleries both here and in the US. How does it feel to be a part of that side of the art world?

LC: The art world came to me really. I thought if I was going to be a part of it I wanted to be in an art gallery with painters, sculptors and other artists. I didn't want to be in a photography gallery.

I joined Luhring Augustine just after they moved to SoHo in New York, at the beginning of 1989. At that time they had Christopher Wool and Richard Prince; I think I related more to other artists than other photographers.

I always felt photography was just a tool for me. I wanted to be a writer at first, then a filmmaker, a painter, I wanted to be anything. I just happened to have a camera so that became my tool.

TAN: Who buys your work?

LC: You'd have to ask the gallery!

TAN: So you're not in contact with your collectors?

LC: Well yeah, I meet some of them now. They're all kinds of people, regular every day people to big collectors.

TAN: Do you like being in large high profile collections?

LC: Yeah! I remember the first time I hung my work in a museum, I was thinking 'wow this is pretty crazy'. I never set out for this, I was just making photographs.

When I first started nobody bought photography, if somebody gave me $25 for a picture I would be thrilled. It was only in the 80s when collectors had everything they could buy, except photography, that the galleries opened up.

It never was, and still isn't, about making work to sell for me. It is just about making work I need to make.

By William Oliver
For The Art Newspaper

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A Portrait of the Artist, in Bits and Pieces

Posted By Administration, Friday, February 8, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Back in 1989, when SoHo was still a booming contemporary-art center, Barbara Bloom produced a memorably trenchant installation called "The Reign of Narcissism" at Jay Gorney Modern Art on Greene Street. It was in the form of a neo-Classical period room in an imaginary museum dedicated to one Barbara Bloom. There were faux-antique marble busts portraying Ms. Bloom; fine teacups watermarked with her image; a 38-volume set of "The Complete Works of Barbara Bloom"; a tombstone with a carved epitaph that said, "She traveled the world to seek beauty" and many more artifacts testifying to the transcendent qualities of a great artist.

Coming at a time when monsters of ambition like Julian Schnabel, Anselm Kiefer and Jeff Koons roamed the artscape, Ms. Bloom's construction nicely skewered the cult of genius, the triumph of moneyed taste and the vanity of the excessively privileged.

It's too bad the International Center of Photography did not recreate "The Reign of Narcissism" for its disappointing survey of Ms. Bloom's career. It would have been wonderfully apposite for today's Chelsea-centered art world.

Instead of the walk-in theatrical installations for which Ms. Bloom is best known, "The Collections of Barbara Bloom" displays pieces from different phases of her career as discrete works of sculpture, assemblage, collage, photography and design. Despite its ironic, overarching concept of the artist as an eccentric, narcissistic collector and curator of her own history, the show is confusingly fragmentary. It feels like a selection of outtakes for the big show that would have done full justice to Ms. Bloom's mercurial talent.

Not that the exhibition is devoid of resonant objects. A headless mannequin in a slinky white dress with buttons down one side bearing photographs of this artist's mother, a Hollywood actress in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, is a marvel of autobiographical condensation. The framed photograph of a chicken viewing itself in a mirror placed in a corner next to an actual mirror is funny and philosophically provocative. The sheets of fake postage stamps bearing reproductions of artworks by Ed Ruscha, Allan McCollum and Harold Edgerton suggest that Ms. Bloom has the soul of a great art director.

Many pieces, however, are not so interesting on their own. Butterfly cases with small, found printed items pinned inside like specimens reveal too little about Ms. Bloom's interest in the novelist and lepidopterist Vladimir Nabokov. Some items are irritatingly clever — a Braille edition of Playboy magazine as a found object, for example. A set of unremarkable photographs hanging behind sheer curtains that you have to draw aside to see is a dull play on photography and voyeurism.

One set of works from 2001, called "Broken," would have been more effective sequestered in its own more intimate space. Each work is composed of a piece of Japanese ceramic ware that was repaired with gold lacquer, an X-ray of that object, a found photograph of a performing acrobat in a frame with shattered glazing, and a beautiful Japanese-style paper container for the ceramic piece. What the wall label does not explain is that Ms. Bloom created the series after falling out of a window and breaking many bones. In the overly busy context of the show, that poignant, personal dimension is lost.

What is also likely to escape viewers is the exhibition's overall concept. According to the catalog essay by Dave Hickey, Ms. Bloom's vision for the show was inspired by the auction catalog for the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. So a semi-fictive, subtly mocking overlay projects the artist as an exquisitely tasteful and erudite collector. Sections with enigmatic titles like "Innuendo," "Blushing," "Charms" and "Stand Ins" add to the idea, but in ways more often mystifying than revealing.

The show's catalog, which mimics an auction catalog, realizes the concept more clearly. Along with numbered images of everything in the exhibition, it includes pictures of many objects not in the show — eye-test charts from around the world that Ms. Bloom has collected, for example. It is annotated by the art historian Susan Tallman in an entertaining, novelistic style that subtly ridicules the idea of the great lady artist-aesthete and satirizes the commodification of art and artists.

As installed in the center's insufficiently luxurious and architecturally amorphous galleries, however, the idea of the high-end estate sale and the implied socio-cultural critique lose all traction. Still, there is the prevailing effect of an intriguing, divided sensibility, one that combines effete, ultra-refined romanticism and tart, gimlet-eyed skepticism.

Ms. Bloom, who was born in 1951, belongs to a generation of artists, including Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince, who shared a mission to expose the subliminal ideologies of modern visual culture. They were ambivalent about both high and low art, but they produced works of impressive visual glamour.

That Ms. Bloom, unlike those artists, did not forge a singular, brandable style, may be to her credit. But when her oeuvre is displayed in the scattershot way it is here, the core purpose underlying her insouciant diversity is regrettably obscured. Sometimes you wish an artist could have a do-over.

"The Collections of Barbara Bloom" is on view through May 4 at the International Center of Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, at 43rd Street, (212) 857-0000,

By Ken Johnson
For The New York Times

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China Overtakes France : Leading economist says it is now number three after the US and UK

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 7, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

China is the third most important art market by value, replacing France, which has long held the coveted spot, after New York and London, a leading economist has said.

A report by Dr Clare McAndrew, who runs a research company Art Economics, commissioned by the organisers of The European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf), Maastricht, and including both auction and dealer data, found that by the end of 2006, China had already become the fourth largest global art market by value, with a 5% share. The US, UK and France were at 46%, 27% and 6% respectively.

The report did not go beyond 2006, but Dr McAndrew told The Art Newspaper that "the trend has continued in 2007 and I would estimate that China has now overtaken France." In 2005, China accounted for only 3.7% of the global market, according to analysis from, whereas France was at 6.6%.

In the contemporary art market, the driver of the recent boom, China had already taken over from France by the end of 2006 (February 2007, p46). At this point, Dr McAndrew found, China had a 20% share of total sales, the same as the UK.

The increasing presence of international galleries in Beijing, together with initiatives such as the ShContemporary art fair, which launched in Shanghai last year, are contributing to China's influence as a global art market centre. "The international centres of art mirror the international financial centres," said Robin Woodhead, chief executive of Sotheby's International.

Auction prices have proved more lucrative in Hong Kong than in China for the past few years. In 2007, Sotheby's and Christie's made around $800m in the region, while their combined Paris salerooms made nearly half that amount at around $440m. The priciest lot to sell at auction in Hong Kong last year was Cai Guo-Qiang's Set of Fourteen Drawings for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, 2002, made with gunpowder and depicting a 20 minute firework display commissioned by the Chinese government. It sold at Christie's for HK$74.2m ($9.5m), setting a new record for Chinese contemporary art at auction.

Hong Kong looks to be consolidating its global market position while sale totals from Paris are closer in volume to other European regions, such as Geneva and Amsterdam.

Christie's, which is owned by French luxury goods magnate François Pinault, is the top auction house in France, but its Paris sales fell 6% to $253m in 2007; Sotheby's saw its sales double to $167m.

"The French market is not just about auctions," said Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's Europe. "In the 20th century, France provided the artists who are now the leading lights of the impressionist and modern fields, and the heirs to their estates still live there. We source a great number of works in France."

By Melanie Gerlis
For The Art Newspaper

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Things to Come : The opening of UCCA, a new non-profit arts centre in Beijing, is a cause for celebration

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 7, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

When the first contemporary galleries opened in Beijing's 798 area in 2002, they were threatened with demolition; rumour had it they were to be razed to make way for an electronics hub. The likelihood of this happening now is remote. Apart from the recent massive boom (to put it mildly) in the popularity and market value of Chinese art, the Chinese government has realized that allowing contemporary art to flourish is great pre-Olympics propaganda; it indicates a tolerance towards dissent for which the dictatorship is, shall we say, not well known. (Let's not forget that the face of Mao Zedong – a man responsible for around 70 million deaths – continues to smile benignly from every banknote in China. Imagine Stalin or Hitler still smiling from banknotes in Russia or Germany and the full weirdness of the situation becomes apparent.) The reality, though, is not so straightforward. Art in any public exhibition still has to be approved by the state censors, who are unpredictable in their clampdowns.

On a chilly November night in Beijing a lavish dinner for 800 people was held to celebrate the opening of the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in 798. Despite the high spirits and conviviality, it was a rather odd evening: the food was modern European, the guests were mainly Westerners, the speeches were in English and a rather cheesy Catalan performance group, La Fura dels Baus gyrated behind a muslin curtain. The mutterings about neo-colonialism were impossible to avoid. Nonetheless, the opening of the centre is, without a doubt, a good thing: it is Beijing's first non-profit, independent art centre and intends to 'create a platform for dialogue around current social and artistic experiences'. Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte in partnership with Ma Qingyun sensitively converted its three enormous galleries, which cover 6,000 square metres, from a Bauhaus-style factory. The building also includes a bookshop, café and research room – the first contemporary art reference centre of its kind in China – where visitors can access a wide range of books, catalogues and journals and see changing displays of artists' editions, 'zines, archival documents and digital media. A comprehensive public programme of seminars and conferences will also be invaluable to the city's students and visitors. The centre is funded by Belgian collector and philanthropist Guy Ullens (who owns US Weight Watchers and, in a neat twist, also made money from sugar) and his wife, Myriam (who is working, according to her husband, on 'changing the Nepalese education system'). Fei Dawei is the Artistic Director; Colin Chinnery, formerly of the British Council in Beijing, is the Chief Curator; and former Tate Collections Director Jan Debbaut is the Senior Artistic Adviser. In conjunction with the Ullens Foundation, which oversees the Ullens Collection of more than 1,500 works by several generations of Chinese artists, UCCA will host exhibitions that explore the collection from various perspectives, as well as showcasing new acquisitions and commissions, holding exhibitions of contemporary art from China and abroad and supporting the development of new work by emerging Chinese artists. In the words of Chinnery: 'What's happening right now is that the Chinese contemporary art market is overheating and becoming so speculative, and that can only be a bad thing for artistic practice because it means that there is a whole system being developed that does not encourage experimentation or risk-taking … such a commercially driven system cannot possibly bring out the full creative potential for younger artists.' It's a situation UCCA hopes to alleviate.

The inaugural show, ''85 New Wave: The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art', included 30 artists (many of whom are now hugely wealthy artist superstars) and 137 works. The exhibition was the brainchild of Fei, who in 1989 moved to Paris, where he introduced members of the Chinese avant-garde to the exhibition 'Magiciens de la Terre', held at the Pompidou Centre in the same year. The 1980s in China was a period without galleries or support – financial or otherwise – for art. Nonetheless, it was a time of fertile artistic discovery, a moment that Fei states 'represented a kind of explosive answer to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and '70s, when China was not only cut off from the rest of the world but was also forced to disown and renounce its own culture'. The work included in the show was made at the crest of the student democratic movement, which was to end in the brutal suppression of civil liberties, state murder and the imprisonment of activists after the demonstrations at Tiananmen Square – a fact the Chinese government still refuses to acknowledge. Coming cold to such an exhibition without a specialist knowledge of this volatile and deeply complex period in Chinese art is difficult: as Fei remarks, the decade 'marked the end of a monolithic artistic model, achieving unprecedented freedom and opening a path for Chinese art to march toward internationalization and contemporaneity'. Despite, however, the volatility of the period, examples of rather second-rate neo-Expressionism, one-liner politics and lame neo-Conceptualism abound – which is understandable given that this was a generation of artists who, in isolation, developed a new artistic language from the embers of Socialist Realism. The highlights of the show, however, were worth the trip. They included: the deadpan paintings of rubber gloves by Zhang Peili (who was also the first artist in China to use video); the documentation of actions by the Xiamen Dada group, including Huang Yongping's The History of Chinese Painting and the History of Modern Western Art Washed in a Washing Machine for 2 Minutes (1987–93); Xu Bing's fascinating 50-foot-long printed scrolls of invented calligraphy A Book from the Sky (1987–91); Shen Yuan's untitled and sinister piece from 1985 that comprised fish in a plastic mattress left without air to die; Wang Guangyi, who blocked out sections of old master reproductions with industrial paint; and Wei Guangqing's photographs documenting his performance Suicide Plan about Oneness (1988).

For the opening UCCA also invited Lawrence Weiner to create a new large-scale work – the artist's first work to be made in China and the first in a series of pieces the centre aims to commission. Optimistically entitled TO ALLOW THE LIGHT, the work combines lettering and graphics, in both English and Chinese, and emblazons the back wall of the UCCA nave. With the prices for Chinese art going through the roof, and hundreds of new studios, galleries and private art museums opening around the country – many of which apparently have nothing to fill their huge spaces with – contemporary art in China has never been in more dire need of serious curating, scholarship and criticism. It is a timely moment for a show such as ''85 New Wave' and for a non-profit centre devoted to the discourse about contemporary art in this rapidly changing but still totalitarian country. Discussions around Chinese art now need to be focused on more than auction prices. What UCCA does with such potential remains to be seen.

By Jennifer Higgie
For Frieze Magazine

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Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 7, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Emi Fontana had a hunch. As director of the new nonprofit West of Rome, she knew the opening of LACMA's Broad Contemporary Art Museum on Feb. 16 would be hard to beat. So she organized an exhibition featuring the work of Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer and Louise Lawler that would be impossible to miss. "It's an art show for cars," Fontana says with a laugh.

Starting Saturday, Kruger will interject phrases and videos on a Sunset Strip LED screen that will give ironic commentary to yuppies whizzing by, and Holzer will use the Roosevelt Hotel, the LA Weekly and posters for her own pointed "truisms." Sherman will add four of her film stills on billboards around the city starting Feb. 19.

Fontana tells me that her idea was to "recontextualize" some of the key work of the '80s, when such female artists were aggressively "taking charge of public spaces," as she says. And it's no accident that there's a cinematic element to many of the works, especially in Lawler's piece, where she re-creates her classic 1979 performance in which she runs John Huston's "The Misfits" with just the audio (at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica next Thursday).

"It's all about media," says Fontana. "What could be more perfect for L.A.?"

By Paul Young
For The Los Angeles Times

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Getty Museum Acquires Penn Photographs

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 7, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

The subjects of the velvety black-and-white pictures are not exactly Irving Penn's elegantly dressed, or undressed, regulars: a plump charwoman with her bucket and brush; a bespectacled seamstress draped with her measuring tape; a deep-sea diver disappearing into his monstrous helmet and suit.

But Mr. Penn considered these blue-collar portraits, called "The Small Trades," some of the most important of his long and influential career. He began taking them in the summer of 1950 for Vogue, the magazine with which he has become synonymous, and now they have finally found a home together at a museum. On Wednesday the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles announced that it had acquired the entire series, 252 full-length portraits of workers — waiters, bakers, butchers, rag-and-bone men — that it called Mr. Penn's most extensive body of work.

"This is a set of images that the Getty has been thinking about and wanting to get for several years," said Virginia Heckert, an associate photography curator at the Getty, who helped negotiate a deal with Mr. Penn, who sold some of the pictures and donated others. "In the last year it finally managed to come together. It's a very exciting acquisition for us."

Mr. Penn, now 90, began the portrait project in Paris for a Vogue series on that city's workers. He continued it for another year after the assignment, seeking out workers in London and then in New York, where he lived, asking them to come to his studio in their work clothes and carrying the tools of their trade.

Unlike the photographs of August Sander, who took more naturalistic, anthropological portraits of German tradespeople and professionals usually in the settings where they worked, Mr. Penn's portraits, perhaps owing to his training as a painter and a fashion photographer, are more formal and personal. He posed each subject against a neutral background and tried to use natural northern light.

"There is something quite theatrical about the presentation of Penn's subject to the camera," Ms. Heckert said. "They're basically on a stage."

But because of the isolated setting, the pictures also seem to reveal something about the people as individuals, not just as functionaries. "It's really about the subject presenting himself in a more intimate setting to his photographer," she added. "It's a more psychological relationship between the artist and the subject." She added that, at a time when abstraction was becoming the dominant mode in the art world, Mr. Penn's decision to dedicate himself to art portraiture was important and made the series even more significant. "He didn't want to go away from the subject but to find a way to describe it in utter detail," Ms. Heckert said.

Weston Naef, the Getty's senior photography curator, said that the museum had been working to acquire the series for more than five years, but the sticking point had been copyright ownership of the images. In many cases, he said, Mr. Penn and Condé Nast, which owns Vogue, share the copyrights to Mr. Penn's images. And the Getty, which had long insisted that it be given copyright power over the trade series, along with the master set of the photographs, decided in the end to abandon the copyright demand.

"This was a real advance for this institution to be able to do that on such a large scale," said Mr. Naef, who added that when it comes to copyrights for Mr. Penn's work, "it is always a complicated story." (He and Ms. Heckert declined to say how much the museum paid for the silver-gelatin and platinum prints, whose sale was negotiated by the Pace/MacGill Gallery.)

In recent years Mr. Penn has been engaging in negotiations that have placed important pieces of his work at prominent institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Morgan Library & Museum in New York. Mr. Naef said that the Getty made a compelling case that the workers' portraits would be well served at the museum, which has extensive holdings of Sander's work, for example, and one of the best photography collections in the world. The Getty plans an exhibition of the images in September 2009.

"We think he's one of the greatest living artists in any medium," Mr. Naef said. "And we like to focus on whole bodies of work. We're seeing these pictures as if they're Monet's waterlilies, a single coherent body of work."

And in the span of Mr. Penn's work, he said: "They're absolutely seminal. They're like Jasper Johns flags or Rauschenberg's 'combines.' "

By Randy Kennedy
For The New York Times

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Foundation Gives $20 Million to 3 Miami Institutions

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 7, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

The starkest measure of Miami-Dade County's growth as a center for the arts is evident in the raw numbers.

A quarter-century ago the county was a languorous cultural swamp sustaining barely 100 nonprofit arts organizations. Now, inspired in part by the annual Art Basel Miami Beach festival, Miami-Dade is a pulsating community of about 1,000 arts groups, from grass-roots collectives operating out of urban garages to the gleaming new $491 million performing arts center in downtown Miami.

Propelled by hundreds of millions of dollars in government grants and private donations, the burgeoning arts scene has in turn spurred a surge of capital development projects; several major cultural buildings are either under construction or already completed.

On Wednesday the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Miami organization that focuses on journalism and community building, added its philanthropic heft to the county's cultural development. The foundation said it was giving a total of $20 million in endowment grants to three arts institutions and holding a $20 million contest for projects that would advance the arts in South Florida.

Alberto Ibargüen, president and chief executive of the Knight Foundation, said the convergence of cultural development projects and soaring arts philanthropy inspired the organization to jump in.

"This was a key moment for us," he said in an interview in the foundation's offices overlooking Biscayne Bay. "As the Knight Foundation is charged with the betterment of communities, we should be a part of this underlying trend."

Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Department, said the Knight endowments would serve as a "big morale booster" for those in the arts. "It also sends a message to the private sector that investments of this level are good investments and the returns to the community are strong," he added.

The foundation is giving $10 million to the Miami Art Museum to endow an education program that aims to bring every fifth-grade student in the county's public school system to the museum each year.

"The word 'every' means something," Terence Riley, the museum's director, said in an interview. "It means it will be part of the shared experience. It means that as young adults they will have a common memory."

The gift, which Mr. Riley called "catalytic," comes at a watershed moment for the museum, which recently introduced designs for a new $220 million building by Biscayne Bay. The museum is to anchor a major urban development project, Museum Park, which will also include a new center for the Miami Science Museum.

The foundation also dedicated $5 million to support up to three exhibitions a year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. "The emphasis is on emerging and experimental projects," Bonnie Clearwater, the museum's executive director and chief curator, said in an interview. "It's an area that's difficult to get funding for. Most artists we show are not well known."

The grant, Ms. Clearwater said, "gives us the ability to take risks and be innovative in our programming." The museum is also in the middle of a $17 million expansion that will triple its exhibition space.

The Knight Foundation has earmarked another $5 million endowment for the New World Symphony, the respected training orchestra based in Miami Beach, to help develop its use of Internet2, a powerful broadband network. The symphony has been using the technology to connect artists and audiences around the world through image and sound.

Howard Herring, the symphony's president and chief executive, said it also plans to use the money to develop multimedia technology for its new performance space, which was designed by Frank Gehry and is now under construction. In addition, Mr. Herring said, the symphony will apply part of the gift to the development of a virtual archive of lessons, master classes, panel discussions, lectures and performances.

The balance of the Knight contribution to the arts — $20 million — will finance what the foundation is calling a "community challenge."

"Because we are looking for big, exciting and new ideas, we have made the process as easy and open as possible," Mr. Ibargüen said. The contest has three rules, the foundation said: The ideas must be "about art," the projects must be set in South Florida, and the applicants must have matching funds from another source.

By Kirk Semple
For The New York Times

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LACMA Broadens its Reach

Posted By Administration, Sunday, February 3, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

The text is snappy: BCAM born!

The image is catchy: a shiny red sculpture of a cracked egg by Jeff Koons that reflects the saw-toothed roof of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, opening Feb. 16 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

And the message, emblazoned on streetlight banners all over town, is clear: LACMA has a hip new attraction and you need to see it.

But the public emergence of the $56-million building designed by architect Renzo Piano and financed by philanthropist and LACMA trustee Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, is far from the whole story. Much more than a new edifice, BCAM is the centerpiece of a multifaceted initiative to create a bold presence for contemporary art at LACMA and the keystone of a three-phase effort to transform the Wilshire Boulevard institution's 20-acre campus.

It's worth keeping in mind that LACMA has a history of off-again, on-again plans for greatness and gaps in leadership. But right now, there's a frenzy of preparation at the museum and a palpable excitement in the air.

Phase 1, now sprinting to the finish, includes BCAM, a three-story building filled with loans of postwar art; the BP Grand Entrance, an airy pavilion, bankrolled by the British oil company, that shifts LACMA's primary point of entry to the west; and an underground parking structure that replaces its ugly predecessor. Large contemporary artworks have popped up on the grounds and several permanent collection galleries have been renovated and reinstalled.

"You have to show people what you can do before you can take the next step," said LACMA Director Michael Govan. Although he arrived less than two years ago -- after the Broad building was underway -- he has his eye on the future.

"This is more than just opening a building," he said. "You are going to see the beginning of a whole new frame for the museum and something that's a 'best of' " -- shorthand for what he sees as "the best space to see contemporary art in an encyclopedic museum."

Recent news that the Broads have decided to keep their personal holdings and the 2,000-piece collection amassed by the Broad Art Foundation -- which functions as a lending library -- rather than give the art to museums as planned, knocked some of the wind out of the opening celebration. Although the Broads never promised specific gifts to LACMA, and the staff and trustees say the new strategy is not a surprise, the rise of the facility bearing their names fueled hopes of art donations.

With or without the collection, BCAM is a major addition -- the seventh building -- at a complicated institution. Funded by public and private sources, LACMA has 13 curatorial departments and a 150,000-piece collection encompassing a vast, global swath of history. The museum has built considerable strengths in areas such as old master paintings, American furniture and German Expressionist material, but it got a late start in the Latin American arena and has barely begun to collect African art.

Through a wide variety of exhibitions and programs, LACMA attempts to serve and satisfy constituencies including art professionals, students, families and ethnic groups. Upcoming exhibitions will focus on topics such as the collecting activities of William Randolph Hearst, German art during the Cold War and Korean contemporary art.

When Govan looks at the big picture, present and future, he sees a balance of local and global imperatives -- a museum with close connections to the community and "world aspirations." And he has a mantra: "Art is first and foremost."

That means work by leading Southern California artists can be seen without entering a building. Passersby can check out a pair of 52-foot-tall banners on the Wilshire side of BCAM, dreamed up by John Baldessari and the design firm 2x4. For visitors who use the new Wilshire entrance, the first art experience will be a walk through Chris Burden's "Urban Light," a temple-like installation of 202 vintage L.A. streetlamps.

"You used to step into the museum and it could have been anywhere," Govan said. "Now you register an immediate sense of place. You are here in Los Angeles."

In another nod to L.A., the beginning of a palm garden-in-process, designed by Robert Irwin and landscape architect Paul Comstock, rises behind "Urban Light." Koons takes the notion of entryway flowers to the hilt with "Tulips," a giant sculpture of colorful blooms. Charles Ray's "Firetruck," a 46 1/2 -foot-long re-creation of a child's toy, sits on the north plaza.

Inside BCAM, two enormous walk-through sculptures, Richard Serra's "Band" and "Sequence," occupy the entire ground floor. The two upper levels offer works by Cindy Sherman, Leon Golub, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Edward Ruscha, Baldessari and Koons, selected by Govan and LACMA curator Lynn Zelevansky primarily from the Broads' collections. The inaugural exhibition will be on view for a year, and some of the Broads' loans are expected to remain at BCAM much longer.

"We picked what we liked, of course," Zelevansky said, "but we wanted to do something that would reflect the Broads' collecting habits, tastes and concerns."

As the key partner of the Broad Art Foundation, LACMA can borrow up to 200 works a year during Eli Broad's lifetime. And for now, there's a bonanza, including "Tulips" and "Firetruck." Broad also established a $10-million acquisition fund that allowed LACMA to purchase Serra's "Band."

To begin a LACMA visit at BCAM is to approach art history from the present. The first step back in time leads to the Ahmanson Building, which has a new entrance on the east side of the entry pavilion. "Smoke," a huge abstract sculpture made by Tony Smith in 1967, fills the atrium -- at the base of a new grand staircase conceived as a gathering place akin to Rome's Spanish Steps. At the top of the stairs, on the plaza level, is a new installation of modern art that places the recent $100-million gift of Janice and Henri Lazarof's collection in the context of works already owned by the museum.

"This 22,000-square-foot presentation of art from 1900 to the 1970s gives the public a much firmer grounding in the revolutionary and avant-garde activities that characterize the 20th century," Stephanie Barron, curator of modern art, said of the installation, which combines paintings, sculptures, works on paper and decorative arts. The spacious galleries, all on one floor, also offer a fuller picture of the museum's German holdings, important developments in sculpture and a comprehensive view of Picasso's achievements, she said.

Steven D. Lavine, president of CalArts and a longtime observer of LACMA, said that the installation including the Lazarof gift has "the stretch of a great museum" and -- in combination with many other changes -- makes the museum feel "fundamentally different."

"LACMA has always seemed like less than the sum of its parts, except when some mega-show made you feel what it was capable of," Lavine said. "Now it has become at least the sum of its parts and maybe more. I have always been skeptical of talk about the renaissance of the arts in Los Angeles. It usually sounds like a lot of hype. But when you put all the pieces together, at LACMA and other institutions, maybe it's true. This is a very exciting moment."

The Ahmanson's plaza level also has a new gallery for African art with works selected by Polly Nooter Roberts, chief curator of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, and a space for the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, one of the museum's most important collections

The new look in the old buildings is part of a continuing effort to rethink all of the museum's collections. The Greek and Roman art galleries in the Ahmanson Building and the American art galleries on the second floor of the Art of the Americas Building have been redone. A reinstallation of the Latin American and pre-Columbian collections in the Art of the Americas Building is expected to open in the summer or fall, followed next year by the Korean and Chinese collections in the Hammer Building. As well, Irwin is working with curator Mary Levkoff on a new version of the B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden.

"We have a long way to go," said Govan, who admits that the jumble of old galleries is "a mess." But he isn't just talking about rearranging art.

A concourse that he jokingly calls "a road to nowhere" leads to LACMA West, a former department store on the west side of the campus that's awaiting renovation this year. Upgrading that building's exhibition spaces and children's center, adding an upscale restaurant and book shop and creating a rooftop sculpture garden is part of Phase 2. Budgeted at $200 million and funded by a 30-year bond, the project also calls for LACMA's eighth building -- a Piano-designed exhibition pavilion with about 60,000 square feet of gallery space on top of the parking structure.

Then comes Phase 3, which will deal with the old buildings. Nobody is making public statements about whether it's better to do a renovation or a tear-down. But either way, it will be a daunting project.

Keeping the momentum building

Phase 1, 2, 3 -- none of it comes cheap, and there's plenty of room for skepticism about how long LACMA's roll can continue. Govan's high profile has made him an attractive candidate for other museums. Shaping LACMA's collections into a coherent walk through history is an enormous challenge. And when it comes to raising the necessary money -- at a gloomy time for the economy -- L.A.'s largest art museum has lots of competition.

"LACMA is still an underfunded institution," Govan said, "but I am extremely encouraged. I have felt a wellspring of support, not only internally but from the community."

In large part, he's banking on a new crop of wealthy trustees who have joined longtime supporters.

One of the prime examples is Andrew M. Gordon, head of Goldman Sachs & Co. Investment Banking Division West Region and the firm's Global Media Investment Banking practice. A third-generation Californian who became involved in big-time cultural philanthropy at Walt Disney Concert Hall, he joined the board at LACMA in 2005 and chaired the finance committee that launched the $200-million bond offering for Phase 2. He became chairman of the board last October.

In an interview at his Century City office, Gordon characterized himself as a passionate member of a hard-working board at a museum that is "really for the people." Recruited by long-standing trustees to help revitalize LACMA and guide it through a period of growth, he shares Govan's optimism.

"We have trustees who care a lot about art, care a lot about Los Angeles, care a lot about what we are doing at the museum," he said. "I think we are extremely well off in terms of our financial situation." The board has raised more than $100 million on his watch, and he expects the trustees to help bring in an additional $50 million in the next few months -- all of which will help pay down the bond.

"A truth of the nonprofit world," Lavine said, "is that success breeds success. Changing the perception of the museum will help generate resources for the future."

But challenges loom. Operating costs rise as new buildings emerge, old facilities sprout leaks and the museum reaches out to new audiences. Although the development department has been enlarged, the curatorial staff has not grown and is not likely to do so soon.

Like most museums, LACMA derives support from earned income, including ticket and gift shop sales and memberships, donations and an endowment. In addition, the museum gets an annual infusion of cash and in-kind services, including some staff members' salaries, from the county. In 2007, $19.4 million of the museum's $54-million operating budget came from the county.

Govan estimates that the Broad building will increase LACMA's operating costs by about 7%. To help make ends meet, the museum recently raised its admission fees for nonmember adults from $10 to $12, and it's counting on boosting attendance, which was 616,491 for the year that ended June 30. The price of self-parking will rise from $5 to $7, and valet parking, a new service, will be available at $10.

Annual giving from trustees and other support groups has edged up too, but the museum's endowment lags far behind those amassed by several comparable "encyclopedic" museums. Largely dependent on the county in its early days, LACMA has built its $170-million endowment over the last few decades. But the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has an endowment of $1.1 billion, the Cleveland Museum of Art has an $820-million endowment and the museum at the Art Institute of Chicago has an investment portfolio of $687.5 million.

Although Los Angeles County provides a steady stream of support to LACMA, a 1994 agreement requires the appropriation to rise in accordance with the region's Consumer Price Index and limits the increase to 5% a year. LACMA leaders hope to change that, and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said it's not out of the question.

"The county administration is going to take a serious look at it because there hasn't been an increase in the appropriation in real dollars since 1994," Yaroslavsky said. "There is going to be a significant increase in the patronage at LACMA, which is a good thing for the museum and the community, and the operating budget is going to go up. The museum wants to have a discussion about the county's participation going up commensurately and we certainly are open to it."

For Govan, building support for the museum's long-term health is a work in progress. "At the opening of BCAM," he said, "it will be clear how much we have left to do and how much there is for you to do. It's a joint effort. Part of what we are trying to do is build community spirit. And I do think we have to seize the moment."

By Suzanne Muchnic
For The Los Angeles Times

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